Huge SLC conference helps families find their roots

Feb 14 2014 - 8:20pm

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Participants enjoyed the RootsTech Conference last weekend in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Rachel Trotter)
Participants enjoyed the RootsTech Conference last weekend in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Rachel Trotter)

SALT LAKE CITY -- As more than 10,000 people from across the world converged on the Salt Palace last weekend for the annual Global RootsTech Conference, the largest family history conference in the world, they didn't know they would be part of a historic announcement.

The event is sponsored by FamilySearch, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' premier family history site.

At RootsTech, FamilySearch announced plans to collaborate with Ancestry.com, Find my Past and My Heritage, three of the largest paid family history sites, to share information and allow LDS Church members free access to their sites. FamilySearch is a free site.

The announcement will have long-reaching effects in the world of family history, said Paul Nauta, public affairs manager for RootsTech and FamilySearch.

Nauta said the collaboration will greatly reduce time to find information. At the current rate, according to FamilySearch, it would take 200 to 300 years to index online the 5.3 billion records FamilySearch has already preserved. By collaborating with the other paid databases, the time to index the current records can be done in 20 to 30 years.

Perks on all sides include being able to collaborate with cameras and other technology to put online data that has never seen the light of the Internet.

"The commercial sites have resources they are bringing to the table, and we have resources like volunteers that we are bringing to the table," Nauta said.

The paid sites aren't worried they will lose LDS subscribers, because they don't feel there a lot of LDS subscribers already. "LDS people are traditionally frugal people, so they don't worry about losing out on that," Nauta said.

Everything will go online the second quarter of this year. "From a Latter-day Saint perspective, they will now have 80 percent of the online history content in the world from their home," Nauta said.

North Ogden resident Kent Bailey said the announcement was one of the most exciting parts of the conference for him. "This will have such a great impact," Bailey said.

Participants attended classes and walked through the expo, which had hundreds of booths as well as several computer-docking stations for participants to put their new knowledge to work immediately.

Nauta said the announcement of the three partnerships have gotten other online groups interested in collaborations as well. He said that although 1 billion individuals' information has been preserved on the FamilySearch online family tree, about 27 billion more people still need to be identified to complete the family tree of mankind since A.D. 1500.

Though that sounds daunting, Nauta said, there are billions of records out there just ready to be put online, and the partnership will make that happen.

Also, events like RootsTech are huge for family history work in general.

"There is nothing like it in the industry," Nauta said of RootsTech. "There is such a broad range of history."

When people come to RootsTech, they find there is more to family history than just dates, he said. "Family history is about the dash, and today we have so much living history. All of the social networks are nothing but family history," Nauta said.

Another component is having volunteers and youth volunteers, which was also a key to the success of RootsTech. This year, an entire day of the conference was focused on youths. More than 4,000 youth registered for Saturday's presentation, which included popular speakers, hands-on classes and demonstrations on how to do specific family history.

RootsTech will continue with online courses offered at 622 remote locations.

Nauta said there will be about 150,000 participants when all is said and done, because the information will be put online for family history fairs through the year.

The focus on genealogy by members of the LDS faith is rooted in the belief that families should be the focal point of their lives, and that family relationships continue into eternity, according to The Associated Press.

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